A report quoted in Computer Weekly at the end of June found that 17% of SMBs are using more than 1 application delivered as a service.
This, as the article notes, brings the problem of integration back into the frame. However, the problem is a tougher one in the sense that SMB are typically not equipped with IT departments capable of handling integration projects and are cost averse.
One approach is to rely on your SaaS application vendor to do the integration for you. As Mike West of the firm that produced the report, Saugatuck, puts it:
“If you’re exclusively on a platform like Salesforce.com and using Salesforce.com plus other cooperating companies on AppExchange, they have their own platform that offers integration,” West said.
Or to put it another way, rely on a single integrated stack from a single vendor – which sounds rather similar to the old enterprise software vendor approach. For the same reasons as larger enterprises don’t put all their applications in a single vendor’s basket (functionality mismatch, over-dependence on a single supplier), many firms going the SaaS route will probably want to mix and match SaaS offerings from multiple vendors or combine in-house applications with SaaS. While SaaS vendors do claim to provide integration hooks, this simply brings them back up to the same mark as in-house hosted applications. This isn’t any more daunting than the other integration issues facing large organisations –and fit well into SOA programmes.
However, for smaller organisations this may be new territory and they are faced with two alternatives:
Do the integration in house as part of a SOA strategy for instance suffers from the problems I covered last time around the lack of support for development life cycle. For larger organisations with sufficient in house IT expertise, this may be acceptable. For smaller ones, it is a far from simple decision. And the decision becomes exponentially more important and potentially painful as the number of applications to be integrated increases the problem exponentially.
Alternatively, you can go to a third party integration SaaS which offers to host the integration logic for you – such as BT (among others) has offered since last year.
Deciding which to go for will require a significant investment of time and effort as the decision will have far reaching consequences.